Anna Paquin. Madonna. Michael Strahan. Elijah Wood. Lauren Hutton. Georgia May Jagger. David Letterman. Celebrities with gapped teeth are memorable for this quirky feature. When your unforgettable smile is making you millions, who wouldn’t embrace it? (Though some celebs don’t). When your gapped smile is causing you severe self-consciousness or oral health issues, however, it’s time to make a change, and your cosmetic dentistry options for fixing gapped teeth are many.
What Causes Gapped Teeth?
The dental term for gapped teeth is diastema which, simply enough, means “a space between two teeth.” Many people with gapped teeth come by this trait naturally. But there are some habits and situations that cause teeth to become gapped over time. Here are the most common causes:
- Mismatching: If the size of your jaw bone and the size of your teeth don’t add up – teeth are too small for the jaw bone – this can cause extra space between your teeth.
- Missing teeth: If teeth are missing or undersized – particularly the two upper lateral incisors which are the teeth on either side of your front teeth – the front teeth can develop a space between them.
- Extra tissue: An oversized labial frenum is the fancy term for extra gum tissue that extends too far, ultimately getting between front teeth. Instead of only doing its job to connect the upper lip and the gums, an oversized labial frenum blocks the natural closing of the space.
- Tongue thrusting: Some people have an incorrect swallowing reflex where, instead of their tongue pressing against the roof of their mouth, their tongue presses against the front teeth. Over time, this can push the teeth forward and cause spaces to develop.
- Thumb sucking: Whether this childhood habit lasts far into adolescence or not, thumb sucking can pull the front teeth forward and cause gaps to form.
- Periodontal disease: When gum disease is present, the bone that supports the teeth deteriorates, causing teeth to become loose and potentially cause gaps between the front teeth. Periodontal disease can, of course, also lead to permanent tooth loss. Tending to gum disease is a far greater and more important concern than gaps between your teeth.
It’s necessary to determine the exact cause of the gapped teeth so that treatment is properly targeted and doesn’t go to waste. A diastema that occurs naturally because of a mismatch between permanent teeth and jaw size should be expected to remain as-is for life unless cosmetically treated. A diastema that occurs because of a bad habit or improper functioning of the teeth, jaw, or tongue will expand over time and could be responsible for pain or discomfort, especially when biting or chewing. If not properly addressed, unnaturally formed gapped teeth can return again even after cosmetic dentistry or orthodontic treatment.
Cosmetic Dentistry Treatments for Gapped Teeth
During your consultation with your dentist for your complaint of gapped teeth, you may have several cosmetic dentistry treatment options available to you. These include
- Porcelain veneers: For natural gaps in people who have a large labial frenum and who would prefer to avoid a frenectomy surgery to reduce the extra tissue, often the easiest and most effective treatment option is porcelain veneers. Teeth can be shaped and elongated to create a straight, gap-less smile and none of your teeth will be abnormally large or small any longer. Veneers are able to correct multiple problems at once, like gaps, odd teeth size, discoloration, cracks, and chips.
- Orthodontic treatment: Traditional metal braces or Invisalign can be worn to close gaps and move your teeth together. The option that is right or viable for you is up to your dentist. Invisalign has successfully eliminated gaps when worn as indicated. It’s important to wear your retainers as directed after any orthodontic treatment – even Invisalign – so that your teeth do not shift out of place again and so your gap does not return.
- Dental implants: If you are recovering from tooth loss due to gum disease or have missing teeth because of an accident or trauma, dental implants are a permanent root replacement that allows a prosthetic tooth to be put in place, closing any holes in your smile and giving your teeth full functionality once again. If gum disease is the cause, you will need to have thorough periodontal treatment completed first in order to create a solid and healthy foundation for any cosmetic or restorative dentistry treatments to be done.
- Dental bonding: For very minor gaps between teeth, dental bonding makes use of tooth-colored resin to reshape the teeth and close small spaces. Applied directly to the teeth, the bonding material is shaped appropriately, hardened, and polished for a natural look.